Cop reprimanded for Tasing trespasser with toy gun without warning
Officers went hands-on and tasered the man in under 2 seconds, but the OPA did not fault them for failing to deescalate.
Officer Omar Figueroa-Carbajal was reprimanded for Tasing an accused shoplifter three times without warning, according to a disciplinary report released earlier this month. The Office of Police
Accountability also stated that the Tasing was arguably unnecessary and excessive but stopped short of sustaining excess force allegations.
In February, six officers responded to a call about a man trespassing at a Rite Aid in South Seattle. The man had previously been trespassed from the same location twice and cited for shoplifting but was released. He was inside the store bathroom when the officers arrived.
Officers surrounded the entryway to the bathroom, completely blocking any escape. Before contacting the man, the officers formed a plan with assigned roles. Figueroa-Carbajal was the designated Taser officer, and Officer Ashley Coleman was positioned near the door with a shield.
When the man emerged, officers ordered him to show his hands. When he didn’t immediately comply, Coleman dropped her shield and grabbed him. The other officers followed suit.
According to the report, the man offered mild resistance, which the OPA described as “unforcefully pulling away once and stiffening himself to prevent officers. Without warning, Figueroa-Carbajal pressed his Taser to the man in “drive stun” mode and shocked him three times. The log showed he fired it a fourth time but didn’t make contact.
The OPA sustained allegations against Figueroa-Carbajal for failing to issue a Taser warning, though he had the opportunity to do so. OPA argued that a warning would’ve allowed the man to comply without using force.
Inexplicably, the OPA did not find that the use of the Taser was unjustified but made a strong case for why it was:
Here, had [Figueroa-Carbajal] warned CM#1 before Tasing him and CM#1 ignored those warnings, OPA would find [Figueroa-Carbajal] use of force objectively reasonable, necessary, and proportional under the circumstances. However, since that did not happen, OPA recommends this allegation be Not Sustained – Inconclusive.
Similarly, the OPA presented a solid argument for why Coleman violated the department’s de-escalation policy before finding that she did not do so. Officers told the OPA that it was necessary to grab the man to prevent him from pointing the toy gun at them. Supposedly, they were operating under the assumption that the man was “possibly armed.”
A video of the officers’ preparations shows they were almost certain it was a toy. Coleman reviewed the store’s surveillance cameras and described the toy as “like a wooden stick.”
Officers explained that they could not de-escalate and create space because they believed that the gun might have been real. They told the OPA that it was critical “to contain CM#1 within the restroom’s parameter, away from the store’s employees and customers, due to his potential deadly threat.”
In their interviews and use of force statements, the officers claimed that they thought the gun could be real, but their actions said otherwise. The officers did not adopt tactics consistent with a potentially deadly threat. OPA wrote, “if the named employees thought CM#1 possibly possessed a real rifle, it is unclear why [Coleman] was the only officer behind the ballistic shield, which she dropped to go hands-on with CM#1.” None of the officers took cover.
OPA concludes: “Nevertheless, despite that questionable tactical decision, OPA does not find that the named employee failed to utilize available de-escalation tactics.”
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